Abducted Israel Defense Forces soldier Gilad Shalit, held by Hamas in the Gaza Strip since 2006, will return to Israel within days, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said on Tuesday, minutes after a deal that would secure Shalit's release was announced.
Speaking to reporters later Tuesday, Netanyahu said that the deal, which is planned to go up for approval in the cabinet later today, would bring about Shalit's release within days.
"In the coming days we will return Gilad to the bosom of his parents, Aviva and Noam, to his brother Yoel, his sister Hadas, his grandfather Tzvi and the entire people of Israel," Netanyahu said.
"Two and a half years ago, with the forming of [my] government, I took it upon myself as my most significant task to return Gilad to his people and his family and return him alive and well," the premier said, adding: "Gilad has spend five years in the most horrible of captivities, without us knowing what was his condition."
"I do not know if the near future would have allowed us to achieve a better deal, or a deal at all, since it is very likely that this window of opportunity created in these circumstances would have finally closed, and we wouldn't have freed Gilad at all," he added.
The PM told reporters that he informed the Shalit family of the upcoming deal earlier Tuesday, telling them he was "returning their boy."
"It was a long and tedious negotiations process," the PM said, adding that Israel "tried to bring Gilad back home in any way possible, but it didn't work. In the last weeks negotiations in Cairo were renewed, mediated by the Egyptian government."
"My instructions were to maintain the frameworks essential to Israel's security," Netanyahu said, adding that there was an "inherent tension between the desire to return an abducted soldier and the maintaining of Israel's security."
Prior to Netanyahu's comments,
Abu Obeida, spokesperson for Hamas military wing confirmed Tuesday the prisoner exchange deal between Hamas and Israel to secure the release of Gilad Shalit.
According to Obeida, the deal that was reached is different from previous proposals, as it is the first one to take place "according to Hamas' terms", and will secure the release of Israeli Arab prisoners in both Jerusalem and Israel who are serving life sentences.
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